The Union of Jewish Students (UJS), and the Cambridge University Jewish Society (JSoc), have released statements condemning behaviour at the Cambridge Union debate held last Thursday (4/11) Louis Ashworth/Varsity

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS), and the Cambridge University Jewish Society (JSoc), have released statements in response to events at the Cambridge Union debate held last Thursday (04/11).

The debate on the motion on whether “there is no such thing as good taste” saw guest speaker Andrew Graham-Dixon, a prominent art historian, deliver a Hitler impression that included racist slurs and the expression of anti-semitic views; Union President Keir Bradwell responded by calling it “perhaps the longest Hitler impression this chamber has ever received” and “a remarkable accomplishment for tonight.”

Graham-Dixon later apologised for the impersonation, describing that the impersonation was intended to highlight Hitler's evils to contribute to his argument in the debate. He also apologised for his use of racial slurs.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS), which represents Jewish students nationally, said that it was “appalled” by the events in the debate,  emphasising that “it shouldn’t always be up to the Jewish community to call out antisemitism.”

It was not only the “inappropriate and insensitive nature of the impression” which disheartened the UJS , but also how the only individual who confronted Graham-Dixon was a Jewish student. 

The statement concluded: “Whilst we appreciate the apology made by the union, it is important for all students in the future to be active bystanders and be willing to call out such behaviour to support and include all students.”

In a statement released yesterday (08/11), JSoc said that it “stands with all students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who were affected and shocked by the remarks and actions at the Union debate on Thursday night.”

The statement continued: “the impression of Hitler and the language used was insensitive and made a number of people feel uncomfortable. It represents a serious misjudgement on the part of the speaker.” 


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It also criticised “the lack of intervention made by the President or any other Union official during the speech,” adding that “it is disappointing that it took a floor speech by a student to call out the issue.”

According to an email sent by the Cambridge Union to its members yesterday (08/11), the Union has promised to “institutionalise firm definitions of racism — including anti-black racism and the IHRA definition of antisemitism” following discussions held between Bradwell, Union committee members, and JSoc members. The email also contains a full recording of the debate.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism has itself been criticised by some for shutting down the freedom to debate on issues around Israel and Palestine, by conflating pro-Palestine advocacy with anti-Jewish prejudice. 

The Union has also pledged to create a “blacklist of speakers never to be invited back”, on which Graham-Dixon will figure. 

In a statement published in The Telegraph yesterday, Bradwell said that the measure would mean “that the speakers who have come here and caused students or the institution great difficulty (whether that's by placing very young adults at the heart of national media controversies as a result of their conduct, or in the worst instance making students feel physically uncomfortable after an event) are kept on record.”

The Union will further host a forum today (09/11) and Wednesday (10/11) “intended as a listening exercise”, in which members are invited to “share thoughts, ideas and concerns in relation to the Union at present.”

“Whether I am — and the Union is — able to heal some of the damage created by our last debate is not something that one can discern from a list of promises — but it does give something to judge us by”, Bradwell wrote.